Art Gallery reaches out to campus with survey, workshops
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 09:11
The Tufts University Art Gallery made its way into students’ email inboxes last week with an online survey meant to gain a better understanding of the gallery’s presence on campus.
The survey, led by Art Gallery Education Outreach Coordinator Dorothee Perin and Art Gallery Administrative Associate Hannah Swartz, was intended to give staff at the gallery a sense of the gallery’s reputation, Perin said.
“We are trying at the gallery to get a better sense of who our audience is, what they want and how they experience the exhibitions that we have,” Perin said. “All this is ultimately to better serve Tufts students and Tufts faculty.”
According to Swartz, the survey is part of a larger−scale self−assessment plan called the Audience Research Plan. The study began in 2007 after the gallery received a grant from the American Alliance of Museums to conduct a self−assessment study.
“Basically it benchmarks our organization against other organizations of similar sizes and similar missions to see how we’re doing and how we hold up in an array of different categories,” Swartz said.
To make sure they collected accurate data, the gallery collaborated with the Tufts University Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation.
“They’ve done a lot of this work before and they wrote out a basic plan for us,” Swartz said. “They’ve helped us really craft out each of the questions word by word.”
The plan and the survey are focused on understanding four main points, including audience composition, visitor reasons for going to the gallery, the quality of visitors’ experiences and the gallery’s image on campus.
The sample of about 2,780 students who received the survey were asked to respond to questions such as, “How often do you visit the Tufts University Art Gallery?” and “Please rate the following characteristics as you believe they apply to the Tufts Art Gallery.”
The staff at the gallery hopes that the survey will encourage more students to visit.
“One of the back−end strategies of having the survey is it was also a way to let people know that the gallery exists, so not only are we polling the students, but we’re also marketing,” Swartz said.
Research from last year indicates that the gallery receives a steadily increasing 7,000 or 8,000 visits per year, Perin said.
Swartz added that although many of their visitors are prospective students, parents, alumni and community members, they plan to reach out more to the students on campus.
“You have no idea how many times I talk to students who go through the gallery for the first time for an event. Sometimes they’re seniors and they [say], ‘Oh my god this is such a beautiful space,’” Perin said.
Perin noted that the gallery, despite its critical recognition within the Boston art scene, could be hard for students to find because of its location inside the Aidekman Arts Center.
“We have this goal in our heads, which might be an unrealistic goal, but we would love to see every single student come through the gallery once in their four years,” Swartz said. “That would be an incredible achievement.”
Swartz also hopes to dispel misconceptions about the gallery, such as the idea that it showcases only student work.
“We do show the [Museum of Fine Arts] thesis exhibitions and we do have our community gallery in Slater Concourse, but primarily the work that we show is [that of] professional artists, many international,” she said.
Beyond the survey, the gallery is excited to promote many new exhibits and programs this year. Continuing until Dec. 16, the gallery is presenting an exhibition called “Food−Water−Life” by the Paris−based Lucy and Jorge Orta, according to Perin.
“The exhibition touches on ... modern themes of sustainability and water supply, food waste, immigration and border control,” Perin said. “It’s been a really good opportunity for us at the gallery to collaborate with different centers and departments on the Tufts campus.”
The gallery is also working with the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project at the Friedman School of Nutrition, Perin said, and has been cultivating gardens outside the gallery and offering planter workshops.
Perin said the gallery has so far received about 400 responses to the survey. Once the staff receives more information about the gallery’s reputation and demographics, Swartz said, they are confident that it will mean a boost in attendance.
“I think that students who have come to the gallery really love it and enjoy it. The hardest part is just getting them here,” Swartz said.